In his first interview since reporting a racist and homophobic attack against him in Chicago, Jussie Smollett sat down with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts to discuss what happened that night, address “doubters” of his attack, and offer some words of encouragement to LGBTQ youth.
Smollett says the attack happened on January 29 at 2am, when two men approached him yelling slurs, tied a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him. Speaking to Roberts, the 36-year-old singer and actor expressed anger, both at his attackers and people questioning the validity of his story, as initial reports were conflicting regarding whether the attackers invoked Trumpist rhetoric.
“For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing,” Smollett says. “I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a faggot, they called me a nigger. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.”
Debate also swirled around Smollett’s refusal to hand over his phone to the police, which he ended up doing, though his phone records were rejected for being “heavily redacted.” Smollett defends his reluctance, however, as his right to privacy over sensitive information.
“I’m an advocate,” he adds. “I respect too much the people—who I am now one of those people—who have been attacked in any way. You do such a disservice when you lie about things like this.”
Smollett is certain that the two men identified in a photo released by police are his attackers and hopes that will lead to their arrest—though the alternative is not something he is prepared to deal with. In addition, he hopes that surveillance footage of the attack will surface for a number of reasons.
“Number one, I want them to find the people that did it,” Smollett begins. “Number two, I want them to stop being able to say ’alleged attack.’ Number three, I want them to see that I fought back. And I want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that I fought [expletive] back. And it does not take anything away from people that are not able to do that, but I fought back. They ran off, I didn’t.”
The rest of Smollett’s interview with Robin Roberts airs tonight on Nightline on ABC. Check out a preview below.